Please do not compare this Giants squad to either the 2007 or the 2011 playoff teams that ended with Super Bowl victories. Yes, both of those renditions limped through the regular season just like this 2016 version; then got hot, had some incredible catches and won the franchise’s seventh and eighth NFL titles, respectively.
Let’s do some numbers for 2016:
|Total yards per game avg.||25||8|
|Passing yards per game||17||17|
|Rushing yards per game||29||20|
|Receiving yards per game 18 6||18||6|
The Giants’ crown jewel on the offense is WR Odell Beckham, Jr. He netted 1,367 yards with 10 TDs (12 if you count the two punt returns that were called back) and finished as the third best WR in the league. Jordy Nelson of the Packers is the sixth best WR. He finished with 1,257 yards yet with 14 TDs. The next best WR for the Giants is Sterling Shepard, No. 60 in the league. Green Bay also has the 26th highest-rated WR with Davante Adams who netted another 12 TDs.
Eli Manning threw 26 TDs with 16 INTs while Aaron Rodgers tossed 41 TDs to 7 INTs. Eli will throw at least one pick while warming up. Only Matt Ryan, Tom Brady and Dak Prescott have a higher overall rating than Rodgers (104.2) while Eli ranks No. 30. Eli seems to be a shell of his former self. And this offense cannot simply run off a clock with a lead when needed at the end of a game, or score the winning touchdown in the last two minutes. Those former champions could do both.
|Yards allowed per game||23||11|
|Rushing yards per game||3||8|
|Passing yards per game||23||31|
|Lowest Points allowed per game||2||21|
You cannot run against the Giants while the Packers are No. 20 in rushing attack anyway. Three Packers reside in the Top 60 in sacks with 23.5 while the Giants (15.5) have only two players of which one – JPP – isn’t even going to play Sunday.
|Kick return avg.||7||24|
|Punt return avg.||23||4|
|Field goals made||25||20|
The Giants have the edge with punter Brad Wing, but the Packers have the better kicker in Mason Crosby. The Giants punt and kickoff teams are excellent in coverage.
Overall, here are the most glaring stats: Green Bay is 31st against the pass; the Giants are 29th in trying to rush the ball. Why not throw 60 times? Yeah, yeah, I get that respect the run angle but numbers don’t lie. Also, the Packers have the number two passing offense. The Giants will counter with the 23rd-ranked pass defense. And nobody predicted an 11-5 season.
Prediction: Packers 31, Giants 17
If the Giants are going to win this game, it’s going to have to be relatively low scoring. The best thing the Packers have going for them lately is the passing game, but this is one place where the Giants can match up with them. The Giants rank second in DVOA against opposing No. 1 receivers, fifth against No. 2s, and seventh against all other receivers. The biggest threat could be Jared Cook, as is any tight end with the ability to beat linebackers against this defense.
On offense, the Giants will have to take advantage of Green Bay’s weak secondary. It was a unit that started the year poorly and got worse due to injuries. While Odell Beckham has been able to burn past defenders on slants, the big plays with the ball in the air haven’t always been there. Eli has thrown some of the shortest passes in the league this season, but if they can take advantage of a deep shot or two, the offense could be just enough to put them in front of this game.
Prediction: Giants 20, Packers 17
Big Blue always comes up big at Lambeau, but that isn't the only reason I'm picking the Giants over the Packers this Sunday. I was on the fence about playing the starters at Washington in Week 17, particularly Eli Manning and Janoris Jenkins. I felt both would benefit from the rest. The Giants showed me something by not only playing (most) of their starters the whole way, but actually winning what was, for all intents and purposes, an exhibition game to them and a playoff-game for the Redskins.
The defense didn't miss a beat and Manning and the offense didn't look as bad as their 19-points (six of those scored by the defense on a fluke play as time expired) might suggest. Penalties and missed opportunities kept them from scoring more, but the Giants committed to the run and moved the ball as well as they had all year. Just as important: they came out of that game without any injury setbacks. The defense will be anxious to get back at Green Bay for what happened earlier this season. They didn't play them so bad to begin with, they just couldn't any help from the offense. That changes on Sunday. I see Manning taking care of the football and finally hitting on plays he's missed for most of the year against a poor Packers' secondary.
Prediction: Giants 22, Packers 20
Predicting the New York Giants has been a fool's errand for years, and 2016 was no different. I don't think anyone saw an 11-5 season coming (especially after a 2-3 start), nor did they see the dramatic turn arounds on both defense and offense.
I'm going to tentatively predict a win for Giants in Lambeau. Football Outsiders says that the Giants aren't just the most consistent team this year, but in DVOA history. They held the Cowboys' 5th ranked defense to 7 points, the red-hot (at the time) Lions to 6 points, and Washington's 12 ranked scoring offense (3rd in yards) to 10 points. The real question for me is whether the offense can get out of its own way. However, Eli is unfazed by big moments while Odell Beckham lives for the bright lights, and I can't shake the feeling that McAdoo has only used asuch offense as absolutely necessary.
Ultimately, I think the Giants are playing with house money and this season has already been a success. But if the offense really does have more than we've seen for much of the year, the Giants could continue to surprise a lot of people.
Prediction: Giants win
This feels too much like our last two Super Bowl runs, and I feel good about the Giants repeating history. This obviously starts in Green Bay, where Aaron Rodgers is again looking like the best player in the NFL. Unlike our other two Cinderella playoff runs, I don't envision Eli playing out of his head. He hasn't played a good four quarters all year, but hopefully he won't have to. Led by our defense, I believe we win in Cheesehead country. Landon Collins is a legit DPOY candidate, Snacks looks like the best DT in the NFC, and our linebackers have been overachieving all season. I think 35-40 rush attempts and holding Green Bay to 14 points is the recipe for the first stop on this playoff run.
Prediction: Giants 17, Packers 14
In my Q&A this week with SB Nation’s Acme Packing Company I was asked to make a game prediction. In my response I promised I wouldn’t be a homer, something I always try not to be, and blindly pick the Giants to win.
I ended up predicting a Green Bay victory, and I’m going to stick with that here. I know what the narrative is. The Giants followed this same path through Lambeau Field in 2007 and 2011 and many are taking it on blind faith that because it happened then it will happen now.
I’m not drinking that Kool-Aid. They are facing Aaron Rodgers and a red-hot Green Bay offense. I simply don’t think it’s realistic to expect the Giants’ defense, as wonderful as it has been, to hold the Packers to something like 10 points. And I’m not blindly accepting that “Playoff Eli” will show up and suddenly turn the Giants’ offense into something it hasn’t been all season.
Prediction: Packers 24, Giants 20